By Jason Keidel
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As oddly warm but welcome weather bathes us in vibrant flora and blue skies, the blue and orange just learned a lesson that will put them on another spring vacation…
As the Knicks were ready to ride the crest of the Mike Woodson wave, winning nine straight in New York and 13-4 since their new coach imbued them with new moxie, the sputtering Miami Heat came to town and swept the season series, perhaps a prelude to a first-round playoff duel.
There’s no doubting the Garden had a playoff vibe yesterday, with all the prerequisite pretty people courtside. But the Heat showed that contests are won with more grit than glamour. And when it was time for the Knicks, after roaring back twice from double-digit deficits, to make a statement, it was delivered in C Flat.
Jeff Van Gundy had it right when he said Carmelo Anthony, who was unstoppable for over three quarters, lost his legs in the fourth, as those shots that torched nylon for 36 minutes began to clang off iron as the seconds dripped off the clock.
Yesterday was a microcosm of Carmelo’s tenure with the Knicks. While Miami’s scoring was spread smoothly among the Holy Trinity – 29 points for LeBron, 28 for Wade, and 16 for Bosh – the Knicks’ stat sheet read like an EKG. After Anthony’s 42 points, Tyson Chandler was next with nine. (J.R. Smith scored 16 off bench on woeful 6-15 shooting.)
And that’s been my beef with procuring Carmelo in the first place. The Knicks stand on the hardwood while Carmelo heats up, and by the time his hand cools no one else is ready to take over. Sure, the Knicks miss Jeremy Lin, but since no one expected Lin to leave his unprecedented trail of faerie dust on the team and the town, any input from Linsanity is, in Michael Kay’s vernacular, bonus cantos.
But while watching Carmelo take every shot won’t win championships, there’s no doubt that when Carmelo is in charge he plays better in all areas of the game, which introduces an interesting dynamic with the Knicks.
There’s a reason the Knicks do well with Carmelo or Amar’e, but not both. Their respective games aren’t predicated on passing, nor is it as easy for Stoudemire to find his own shots. As you saw yesterday, there may not be complete symbiosis between LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, but their games are pliable enough to make room for the other, with Bosh devouring the scraps. (And LeBron can beat you with ten boards and ten assists. Carmelo can’t.)
Between the injuries to Lin, Stoudemire, and their midseason unrest (see: quitting on former coach), the Knicks and their fans have ample excuses once this season ends early, as every one has since 1973. But next year, with Woodson surely at the helm, there will be no more excuses. Indeed, 2012-13 will be a referendum on the orange and blueprint.
As the Knicks joust for higher seeding, they may want the incongruous good fortune of finishing last. The eighth seed means a date with Chicago and Derrick Rose’s brittle legs. Miami showed that a healthy Big Three wins every hand.
Feel free to email me: Keidel.Jason@gmail.com